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Victory over Ireland

Lahm and Co book ticket to Brazil

The German national team captained by Bayern’s Philipp Lahm banished any last lingering doubts on Friday and booked their place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a game to spare. Joachim Löw’s side, featuring six Bayern men in the starting line-up, defeated Ireland 3-0 in Cologne with goals from Sami Khedira (12), André Schürrle (58) and Mesut Özil (90+1), but although the result fairly reflected the balance of play, there were a couple of nervous moments for Manuel Neuer and Co against the determined visitors.

Coach Löw selected Neuer in goal, with Lahm at right back and Jérôme Boateng at centre-half. Three FCB stars lined up in midfield, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos joining forces with Khedira of Real Madrid to add balance and bite to the central area. Thomas Müller took up station wide on the right, with the seventh Munich man, Mario Götze, coming on as a sub four minutes from time. Hamburg’s ex-FCB defender Marcell Jansen also started the match.

The first half was not dissimilar to recent Bayern performances, as the fans in Cologne witnessed a one-sided encounter with all the pressure directed at the Irish goal. However, Löw’s men lacked pace and precision in their passing, and the deep-lying visitors largely repelled the early onslaught. Khedira’s 12th-minute goal arose when Ciaran Clark unluckily deflected a long-range effort, after Lahm initiated the move leading to the goal with a smart pass into the danger zone. Schürrle and Müller went close to making it two, but Clark came within inches of equalising in first-half stoppage time when his header came back off the bar.

Two assists for Kroos

The Irish came out for the second half with the momentum on their side, and Neuer made four last-ditch saves (47, 51, 73, 90) in what was overall a fine display from the Bayern keeper. However, despite the visitors’ chances on the break, Germany dominated possession and continued to create openings, with Chelsea’s former Leverkusen striker Schürrle finishing off a superb Kroos pass to make it two just before the hour.

Schweinsteiger (60), Kroos (77) and Boateng with a piledriver against the bar eight minutes from time came closest to settling the issue, before Özil latched onto another fine through ball from Kroos to bring up the final score. At the end of the day, Ireland had keeper David Forde and a healthy portion of good fortune to thank for not losing by more.

“We’ve been working very hard and well for a full year,” commented Lahm afterwards. “We’re delighted we’ve qualified. It’s a good feeling,“ added Schweinsteiger. Müller was pleased to get an “arduous” meeting with the “stubborn” Irish out of the way: “They basically strung nine men across the edge of the box. But it’s not like you’re not allowed to do that.“